Tips for Dealing with Picky Eaters

Tips for Dealing with Picky Eaters

Feeding a picky eater can feel like an epic battle. You whip up a nutritious meal, only to be met with a firm “no” or, worse, a temper tantrum. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! According to a University of Michigan study, 30-50% of parents say their children struggle with picky eating. Thankfully, there are ways to make mealtime more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone. Here are some practical tips to help you navigate this tricky terrain.

Stay Calm and Be Patient

First things first, don’t panic. Picky eating is common, especially among younger children. It’s essential to stay calm and patient. Overreacting can create a negative mealtime atmosphere, making your child even more resistant to trying new foods. Remember, patience is key.

Make Meals Fun

Turn mealtime into a fun and engaging experience. Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes out of sandwiches, fruits, and veggies. Arrange food into smiley faces or animals on their plate. When food looks exciting, kids are more likely to give it a try.

Get Them Involved

Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. Let them pick out fruits and veggies at the grocery store or help you with simple tasks in the kitchen, like washing vegetables or stirring ingredients. When kids have a hand in making their meals, they’re more invested and curious about eating what they’ve created.

Introduce New Foods Gradually

Food anxiety — or a child’s hesitancy to try out foods — can lead to more severe issues if a child is forced into eating something they fear. Introducing new foods gradually can ease the transition for picky eaters. Pair a new food with something they already like. Encourage them to take just one bite, but don’t force it. Sometimes it takes several tries before a child starts to accept a new food.

Be a Role Model

Kids learn by watching. If they see you enjoying a variety of healthy foods, they’re more likely to follow suit. Make sure your meals include the same foods you want your child to eat. Your enthusiasm for these foods can be contagious.

Create a Routine

Having regular meals and snack times can help. When children know what to expect, they’re less likely to fuss. Try to avoid grazing throughout the day so they come to meals with a healthy appetite.

Offer Choices

Giving your child some control over their food choices can reduce resistance. Instead of asking, “Do you want broccoli?” try, “Would you like broccoli or carrots?” This way, they feel empowered and are more likely to choose one of the options.

Avoid Bribes and Punishments

Using dessert as a bribe or punishing your child for not eating sends the wrong message. It can make them associate mealtime with stress or make certain foods seem like chores rather than enjoyable experiences.

Respect Their Appetite

It’s important to respect your child’s appetite—or lack thereof. Forcing them to eat when they’re not hungry can create negative associations with food. Encourage them to listen to their bodies and eat until they’re satisfied, not until the plate is clean.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is crucial. Keep offering a variety of foods, even if they’re initially rejected. Over time, exposure can lead to acceptance. Celebrate small victories and keep a positive attitude.

Remember, dealing with picky eaters is a marathon, not a sprint. With patience, creativity, and consistency, you can help your child develop healthier eating habits. And while you’re out of school this summer from Lake Forrest Prep, we hope you and your child can experiment with some fun new foods together!